ISLAMABAD: A 53-year-old COVID-19 patient has recovered from the disease with the help of plasma therapy, the head of Pakistan’s National Institute of Blood Diseases (NIBD) told Arab News on Sunday, marking a breakthrough for authorities grappling with the outbreak across the country.
“I can confirm to you that the first coronavirus (COVID-19) patient, treated with passive immunization of plasma therapy, has recovered and has been moved to his home from the hospital,” said Dr. Tahir Shamsi, who is also a renowned haematologist, without divulging the individual’s identity citing a confidentiality clause.
He added that the recovery time in such cases is usually two weeks, but that the patient “tested negative after seven days.”
The development follows the Liaquat University Hospital — one of three clinically approved trial centers for convalescent plasma in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province — confirming to Arab News last week that it was treating a 53-year-old COVID-19 patient with the help of plasma therapy.
The process involves using the plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients, who have antibodies in their blood, to fight the disease.
With 20 new deaths reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 659, Pakistan is witnessing a spike in the number of infections, which crossed the 30,000 mark on Monday, with 8,023 recoveries reported so far.
To limit the spread of the disease, Shamsi said: “Plasma therapy trials have begun in other cities such as Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore, Sialkot, Islamabad and Peshawar.”
He added that large-scale plasma therapy procedures needed government approval, citing the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) as an example.
The NHS established clinical trials across the country and requested COVID-19 patients who recovered from the disease to donate their plasma.
Another example, Shamsi said, is the US, which has also launched clinical trials for passive immunization programs, with a large number of individuals registering themselves for plasma donations.
Dr. Saqib Hussain Ansari, a haematologist at the NIBD, urged more people to emulate the UK and US by donating blood.
“In Pakistan, blood donation is not in fashion, but organizations involved in blood donation motivation, celebrities and spiritual leaders can play a key role in spreading awareness,” he said.
Ansari added that passive immunization is not a new medical treatment and has been in practice for the past 125 years. “In the recent past, plasma therapy was used to cure patients of Ebola virus and influenza,” he said.